Protein synthesis rates of muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage, and bone tissue in vivo in humans

Joey S J Smeets, Astrid M H Horstman, Georges F Vles, Pieter J Emans, Joy P B Goessens, Annemie P Gijsen, Janneau M X van Kranenburg, Luc J C van Loon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Skeletal muscle plasticity is reflected by a dynamic balance between protein synthesis and breakdown, with basal muscle tissue protein synthesis rates ranging between 0.02 and 0.09%/h. Though it is evident that other musculoskeletal tissues should also express some level of plasticity, data on protein synthesis rates of most of these tissues in vivo in humans is limited. Six otherwise healthy patients (62±3 y), scheduled to undergo unilateral total knee arthroplasty, were subjected to primed continuous intravenous infusions with L-[ring-13C6]-Phenylalanine throughout the surgical procedure. Tissue samples obtained during surgery included muscle, tendon, cruciate ligaments, cartilage, bone, menisci, fat, and synovium. Tissue-specific fractional protein synthesis rates (%/h) were assessed by measuring the incorporation of L-[ring-13C6]-Phenylalanine in tissue protein and were compared with muscle tissue protein synthesis rates using a paired t test. Tendon, bone, cartilage, Hoffa's fat pad, anterior and posterior cruciate ligament, and menisci tissue protein synthesis rates averaged 0.06±0.01, 0.03±0.01, 0.04±0.01, 0.11±0.03, 0.07±0.02, 0.04±0.01, and 0.04±0.01%/h, respectively, and did not significantly differ from skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates (0.04±0.01%/h; P>0.05). Synovium derived protein (0.13±0.03%/h) and intercondylar notch bone tissue protein synthesis rates (0.03±0.01%/h) were respectively higher and lower compared to skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates (P<0.05 and P<0.01, respectively). Basal protein synthesis rates in various musculoskeletal tissues are within the same range of skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates, with fractional muscle, tendon, bone, cartilage, ligament, menisci, fat, and synovium protein synthesis rates ranging between 0.02 and 0.13% per hour in vivo in humans. Clinical trial registration: NTR5147.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0224745
Number of pages17
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019


  • Bone and Bones/metabolism
  • Cartilage/metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ligaments/metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal/metabolism
  • Phenylalanine/metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Tendons/metabolism

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